1. Business

Trigaux: Startups celebrate need for new space at Tampa Bay WaVE's Channelside site

Tom Mulliez, founder of outdoor adventure startup iTrekkers, listens to Tampa Bay WaVE president Linda Olson, give an enthusiastic update on the potential for this region's entrepreneurial economy at a preview opening of WaVE's second Tampa location on Channelside Drive. A standing room only audience of more than 160 attended the morning event.
Published May 2, 2017

TAMPA — Sure, it's easy to say the Tampa Bay startup community has many miles to go before it reaps — the rewards of celebrating major companies born and raised here.

But on Tuesday morning, there was a bold theme at the gathering held inside the Tampa Bay WaVE business incubator's second location, a peek preview of what will open this summer in space along Channelside Drive:

You've come a long way, baby.

"When we started in June 2008," Tampa Bay WaVE founder and president Linda Olson told 160-plus invitees, "that ecosystem, believe me, was kind of appalling."

Nine years of sweat equity and hard lessons learned later, Tuesday's turnout brimmed with rising confidence. In the past four years alone, Olson said WaVE has supported 198 tech startups that have raised $110 million in funding and created close to 1,000 jobs. Expansion in only accelerating.

WaVE's Channelside incubator will house startups in short, six-month leases until owner Strategic Property Partners (the Jeff Vinik-Cascade Investment real estate venture) redevelops that stretch of Channelside. Until then, it's WaVE's turf.

WaVE also continues to support startups from its other downtown site on Kennedy Boulevard.

Olson outlined four goals for WaVE:

1. Expand its startup support regionally and focus more on women, veterans and minorities to diversify its help to entrepreneurs.

2. Increase the access of venture capital to area startups to keep them from starving from lack of funding or moving elsewhere just to survive. Olson cited one goal of creating a startup fund here with $100 million in its coffers by 2020.

3. Reach out to the more established Tampa Bay business community to be more supportive of area startups. Become their customers. Mentor them. Network with them, she urged.

4. Elevate the Tampa Bay startup community. "We need to believe in ourselves," Olson said. "Something special is happening here."

That last goal to inspire confidence is key to Tampa Bay's efforts to make entrepreneurs a stronger piece of its economy. To help, the WaVE is launching a membership program, Friends of Wave.

Tuesday's gathering was awash with startup chatter.

Veteran entrepreneur and loyal area mentor Chuck Papageorgiou, now on the WaVE's board of directors, told stories of how he spurned appeals by venture capitalists to move his startups away from Tampa. Robert Francis, 81, suggested retiring was overrated and spoke of his latest deal to invest in an innovative energy business in Costa Rica.

Debbie Torres, pitching her social media/marketing startup called My Area Network, said her first days as a woman among WaVE startups were lonely. "The bathroom was never busy," she said. And now? "A lot has changed," she beamed.

The WaVE, of course, is but one piece of a much broader startup mosaic in Tampa Bay. There are lots of players and pieces in motion. Hopefully, they will keep trying to talk to one another.

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.


  1. Zum driver Stacey Patrick, right, waves goodbye to student Saahas Kohli, left, and his mother, Alpa Kohli, obscured behind her son, as he returns home from school in Saratoga, Calif. A handful of ride-hailing companies have surfaced that allow parents to order rides, and in some cases childcare, for children using smartphone apps. The promise is alluring at a time when children are expected to accomplish a dizzying array of extracurricular activities and the boundaries between work and home have blurred. But the companies face hurdles convincing parents that a stranger hired by a ride-hailing company is trustworthy enough to ferry their most precious passengers. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) BEN MARGOT  |  AP
    Ride-hailing companies resolve a dilemma many parents face: how to pick up your kids from school while holding a full-time job.
  2. Integrity Express Logistics, which is expanding its Tampa office, matches freight with trucks to haul it in 48 states and Canada. (DANNY JOHNSTON | Associated Press) DANNY JOHNSTON  |  AP
    The company plans to hire at least 50 more employees and to spend $230,000 on renovations and new office equipment.
  3. Bins filled with products move on conveyor belts at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Ruskin. Amazon just announced it will open a similar center in Auburndale, Fla. (Times | 2018) Tampa Bay Times
    The new center will span more than 1 million square feet and be No. 11 in the state.
  4. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
A shot taken on June 4, 2019 during the 12-week demolition of the Harborview Center which began in April on the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue in downtown Clearwater. The project is a key part of the city's roughly $64-million Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment project. Will residents move downtown once it is done? DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “It’s our biggest challenge,” one city official said.
  5. Although people with insurance pay nothing when they get their flu shot, many don’t realize that their insurers foot the bill — and that those companies will recoup their costs eventually.
    Federal law requires health insurers to cover the vaccines at no charge to patients, but the companies eventually recoup the cost through higher premiums.
  6. The Overstreet house at 1018 S. Frankland Rd. is seen in this Dec. 2018 photo from Google Earth. Google Earth
    The family says the house took two years too long to build and claims the contractor subbed high-end parts for low-quality materials.
  7. Port Tampa Bay president and CEO Paul Anderson. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times (2017)]
    Port commissioners approved the raise after a year with milestone achievements on several fronts.
  8. A rendering of the proposed Edge Collective in St. Petersburg's Edge District. Storyn Studio for Architecture
    The "Hall on Central'' will be managed by Tampa’s Hall on Franklin team.
  9. Mango Plaza in Seffner has sold for $12.49 million. The plaza is anchored by a Publix and Walmart, making it attractive to a Baltimore investment firm. (Continental Realty Corporation)
    Mango Plaza’s new owners are based out of Baltimore.
  10. The Southernmost Point marker in Key West. CAROL TEDESCO  |  AP
    The travel website put the Florida Keys on its list of places not to visit.